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Consciousness and Experience.

Lycan, William G. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996. xviii + 211 pp. Cloth, $36.00--This book (hereafter "CE") is a lively, readable sequel in which Lycan answers critics and extends the homuncular functionalist view of consciousness given in his 1987 Consciousness (hereafter `Cs' 9, also published by MIT Press. Both books aim to defend a maternalist view of human beings by countering nonmaterialist accounts of consciousness, subjectivity, qualia, and sensation (CE, p. xiii). The original line of defense, behaviorism (methodological in psychology and analytical in philosophy), gave way to identity theory which was followed by functionalism. Identity theory refers to the "type-type" identification of the mental with the neurophysiological (Cs, p. 132). It argues that mental states are inner and mediate between stimulus and response. "They are states of the central nervous system, describable in neuroanatomical terms' (Cs, p. 7). Functionalism sees identity theory as "an empirically special case of Functionalism . . . that (implausibly) locates all mental states at the same very low level of institutional abstraction--the neuroanatomical" (Cs, p. 59).

Lycan averts the Rylean infinite-regress objection to homuncular theories in psychology by assuming both intentionality and hierarchy, the latter first introduced into neurology by Hughlings Jackson. The psychologist first notes some psychologically characterized (for example intentional) ability of the human subject and then posits the homunculi or subpersonal agencies needed to explain that ability. Hierarchically lower-level homunculi are then posited to explain the previously posited molar behavior of the original homunculi.

Regarding qualia, Freud was unwavering in the assumption that affect can only be conscious. Reasons for anger can be repressed and unconsciously monitored, but anger as such is the response to the reasons becoming conscious. Freud's notion of affect challenges Lycan's distinction between "a quale, and the conscious experience of a quale" (CE, p. 102), and his insistence that mere "higher-order monitoring could not possibly bring a quale into being" (CE, p. 76). Affect, a first-order orienting response, is not "the subject [becoming] aware of a quale that was there, independently, in the fast place" (CE, p. 77). What was there in the first place is that which evokes the affect--that to which the affect is a response. Lycan's is a problem that results from taking properties associated with perception or sensation rather than affect (feeling) as the paradigmatic quale.

Unconscious affect is not a concept necessary to Lycan's project. He does allow for the causal texture of affect (CE, p. 106). Indeed, from strictly a deterministic point of view, Lycan's effort to save "the materialist view of human beings from all perils" (CE, p. xiii) is compatible with the thought of Freud. I have argued elsewhere ("The psychoanalytic understanding of human freedom," Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 26 [1978]: 87-107) against the idea that selfhood or mind are beyond psychic determinism.

As elaborated by Lycan, the traditional terms "hard" and "soft" determinism become misnomers. Soft determinism is not less deterministic but more explicitly comprehensive in its efforts to account for even the highest levels of human functioning Hard determinism more easily lends itself to "determinism as alibi" or to taunting others ("you think you are free but you are not), either of which can be deployed to distract one's self from the anxiety associated with the acknowledging one's own lack and finitude.

Let us assume that Lycan has it right there is a seamless type-identity between the mental and the neurophysiological (Cs, p. 41). The task of assuming one's finitude is not in some realm outside determinism but within it, as is also the further task of assuming moral responsibility within the paradox of determinism and choice. But how would the neurophysiological concomitants of such ever be brought to light'? Here one must allow for a division of labor between the clinic and the laboratory that can but need not foster the bipartite view of reality that Lycan resists. So far as empirical research is concerned, there is nothing the clinician can do but pursue psychological explanation and nothing the neurophysiologist can do bit pursue neurophysiological explanation. Each field can provide markers that might guide research in the other arena, but findings in neither arena are more real than in the other. If the millennial result is exact neurophysiological and exact psychological description of exactly the same processes, Lycan's functionalist version of type-identity will have been confirmed.
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Author:Smith, Joseph H.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1997
Words:718
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